The Cuomo/Media Meltdown


“Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad” — Greek dramatist Sophocles, 441 B.C.

“Whom the media would destroy, they first glorify” — Anonymous, 2021 A.D.

It is a cautionary tale learned the hard way by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo who, nine months ago, was the toast of media world, a strong aggressive leader who single-handedly defeated he COVID-9 pandemic in his state.

The punditocracy fawned over him and cable talk show hosts pored over their thesaurus in search of new and more glowing adjectives to describe his presence and performance.

The International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences shredded its credibility and, in a forever baffling decision, awarded its International Emmy Founders Award to Cuomo for his televised briefings while the pandemic ripped through his state.

The media pronounced him a shoo-in for a fourth term as governor in 2022.  He was included in speculation as a vice presidential candidate or Attorney General once President Trump was turned out of office.

Today, the New York Jets have a brighter future than the New York governor.

Not too long ago, he stood tall atop a pedestal erected by the media, believing the hype, soaking up the praise and and confident that should he topple from his lofty perch the media would break his fall — a major and costly miscalculation.

The media stood by and looked on as he hit the floor,  describing the plunge and explaining how it happened and what it all meant.

Picking up the pieces of a shattered career is not a media function.

Turns out the briefings the Emmy presenters found so dazzling were built on a tissue of misleading data in a deliberate effort to cover up the death toll of patients in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

Following a report by the state Attorney General that the Administration had undercounted the fatalities by some 40 percent, a top counsel and close adviser to the governor admitted that they’d cooked the books out of fear that the political opposition would use the true numbers against them.

While the pandemic spread, Cuomo directed nursing homes to admit patients diagnosed with the virus to avoid the potential for the hospital system to be overwhelmed and rendered incapable of treating the sick.

Deliberately falsifying the death toll would serve to justify the governor’s directive.  The pain and heartbreak suffered by the families of those who died wasn’t factored into a callous political calculation designed to protect the governor at all costs.

While grappling with the fallout from the cover up revelations, Cuomo was rocked by allegations that he had sexually harassed office staffers, including uttering suggestive comments and inappropriate, unwanted contact.

Seven women have now leveled accusations against him and, while he has denied many of the allegations and apologized if his conduct offended anyone, he has refused to resign, an action he described as caving in to the “cancel culture.”

His party has largely abandoned him and, in a major blow, New York’s two United States Senators, joined a growing list of state elected officials and the Congressional delegation in calling for him to step down.

Portraying him as someone who has lost the confidence of the people and can no longer be an effective leader, the state Legislature has moved to open an inquiry into whether he has committed impeachable offenses.

Cuomo has pleaded for withholding judgment until an investigation by the Attorney General is completed while he remains in office.

His position, though, is becoming increasingly untenable by the day. A fourth term is out of the question, completing his current term is in considerable jeopardy and the pressure exerted on him to leave office ratchets up with no relief in sight.

The media which swooned over him and glorified him as precisely the kind of tough-minded yet compassionate leader the nation so desperately needed is now consumed with filling news columns and airtime with tales of lies about nursing home fatalities and lecherous behavior toward subordinates.

Former staffers have been emboldened to come forward with harrowing accounts of an overbearing bully who routinely demeaned and belittled them — an unmistakable sign that the loyalty they once felt for him or the fear he once inspired in them have vanished.

He seemingly has few friends left and the landscape is littered with the broken careers of those who claimed he used them and cast them  aside.

With each new revelation of his boorish and abusive behavior, his reputation as a chief executive who demanded absolute loyalty and subservience was reinforced.

The silo of grist for the media mill appears bottomless.

The gods Sophocles warned of and the cynicism toward the media expressed by anonymous are a cautionary tale as well for others who navigate the stormy environment of public life — invincibility is a myth.

The media, though, endures; no mea culpas or apologies.  It has always been thus.

It was, after all, Cuomo who incurred the wrath of the gods of whom Sophocles spoke and, by his own actions, brought about his downfall.  When his feet of clay crumbled on the pedestal, the media simply bore witness to it all.

No matter his bleak future, as ex-governor he can comfort himself staring at the Emmy on his mantel and musing about what his life once was.

Carl Golden is a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University.

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